4 November 2015
Often overlooked and seen as boring the lentil is one of those hidden nutritional gems that is just waiting to be discovered!
The lentil plant originates from Asia and North Africa and is one of our oldest sources of food. A cousin to the pea and a rich provider of protein and carbohydrates the lentil is also a good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins – making it an important diet staple the world over.
There are several different varieties – most commonly used in cooking are Brown, Red and Green lentils, although we are now making the yellow split pea and French lentil (Puy) available to you for more variety and choice.
Lentils are economical, easy to store and very easy to prepare – and the type you choose really depends on what you would like to make with them.
Green and brown: Ideal for warm salads, casseroles and stuffing as they tend to retain their shape after cooking.
Puy (French) lentils: These grey-green lentils, grown in the French region of Le Puy, are often more expensive than other common cooking varieties and are thought to be superior in texture (which they retain after cooking) and taste. This makes them the perfect accompaniment to more expensive ingredients.
Red split lentils: When cooked these lentils form a rich puree and therefore are superb for thickening dishes such as soups and casseroles. They are also often cooked with spices to make the Indian side dish, dhal.
Yellow lentils: Being quite similar to Red Split lentils, the yellow variety are used in a similar way as they also become more mushey. This makes them great for dhals and great for adding colour to winter dishes.
Lentils do not require it but can be soaked in order to reduce cooking time by about half. Although the red and yellow split types should not be soaked at all.
Before cooking, rinse lentils in cold water, pick over to remove debris or shrivelled lentils and then drain.
Keep lentils in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Although lentils can be kept and eaten indefinitely, they are best enjoyed within one year of purchase.
Boil lentils in three times more water than the amount of lentils (3:1) and avoid cooking with anything acidic – such as vinegar, as this will make them hard.
Lentils will vary in their cooking times depending on their variety and age so always check the packet.
As a rough guide to cooking times:
Green and Brown lentils: 35 – 45 minutes
Red Split lentils: 15 – 20 minutes
Puy lentils: 20 – 25 minutes